Cashierless stores aren’t just for mega retailers like Amazon to sell prepared food from their kitchens or products from other producers: Beverage brands, among other companies, are getting into the action and choosing this checkout experience for stores that showcase their own products IRL (“in real life”) as a marketing tool.
This week, beverage company Dirty Lemon plans to bring such a store to New York City this week – with a little help from mobile technology. The future store is planned as a “walk-in vending machine” that allows customers to use their cell phones to pay for their orders.
To allow shoppers to check out without visiting a cash register, the new store will deploy technology like heat map trackers at the door, which detect the footsteps of customers as they enter and exit. Inside, coolers will come equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to monitor when inventory is purchased and restocked.
As Dirty Lemon CEO Zak Normandin told AdWeek, “It’s a relatively low risk for us to be able to do something innovative and unique for the brand and with our customers.”
Overall, AdWeek wrote, Normandin sees the brand “as more of a technology company than a beverage company. The company allows customers to purchase items through their cellphones with their credit cards. After linking their cards to the service, the checkout follows an auto-pilot process of sorts. To place an order for a six pack of the company’s beverages, customers can text a number to the company.
But in terms of strategy, Dirty Lemon seems to be betting big on brick-and-mortar retail, despite having its roots in the digital world. Although the company didn’t discuss future store plans with CNBC, it did say how important the stores are to the company’s strategy, with plans to move “all of its digital marketing spend to retail in 2019.” The move comes as consumer ads can be costly for beverage companies as well as brands in other sectors, making brick-and-mortar stores an attractive alternative.
The Cashierless Ecosystem
Beyond the efforts of Dirty Lemon, cashierless checkout is hardly a new concept in the evolution of retail. The technology has been made famous by Amazon through its checkout-free Amazon Go stores in Seattle. In May, Amazon said there are plans to also expand to Chicago and San Francisco. And just last week, news surfaced that Amazon will be taking the technology to the East Coast. “We plan to open Amazon Go in New York,” an Amazon spokesperson said, according to Reuters, though it was not revealed when the company plans to open the location.
At Amazon Go’s original location, customers can choose from pre-made salads, sandwiches, snacks and meals, as wells as beer, wine and other beverages. Shelves are also stocked with produce, meat and Amazon meal kits. The second Seattle location, however, has a different product selection: It doesn’t offer liquor or certain staples, such as bread and milk. And while some prepared foods in Amazon Go’s original store were made on the premises, the selection in the second store is provided by an Amazon facility in Seattle. The third location is the concept’s biggest store to date.
While Amazon is bringing cashierless technology to new stores, Standard Cognition is working to put self-checkout technology in existing stores. To enable this function, the company uses a system of cameras installed on the ceiling, along with computers in the back of the store. By comparison, some solutions use shelf sensors to keep track of selected items to enable customers to check out without a cashier – but this technology can come with downsides, such as costly and time-consuming installation.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, Standard Cognition’s checkout systems can be installed in different formats. In the case of Standard Cognition’s future store, the checkout experience starts when a customer walks in and takes out his or her phone. To start ringing up items, customers check in through an app and can then put their phones away, as the technology does all the work.
According to a report from VentureBeat earlier this month, the San Francisco store will be called Standard Market. It will stock food, convenience store items and cleaning supplies, among other products. But another company beat Standard Cognition – and Amazon – to the punch: Zippin opened its first cashierless store in August, showing that the concept is gaining traction in major markets beyond Seattle.